The Antiochus Cylinder

The ancient Babylonian kings had the habit to put clay cylinders in the foundations of their temples, as a message from a king to posterity. The most famous of these is the Cyrus Cylinder; the youngest is a cylinder by king Antiochus I Soter, the son of Seleucus I Nicator. It dates to 268 BCE, and illustrates that the Macedonian tried to present himself as a Babylonian.

Antiochus tells how he personally moulded the first bricks in Syria, brought them to Babylonia, and rebuilt the temple of Nabû in Borsippa (the Ezida). The text continues with a prayer to the gods, which is pretty stereotypical, but also contains a likely reference to the First Syrian War: Antiochus asks for support in his fight against Ptolemaic Egypt. In the last lines, he asks for a long life for his wife Stratonice and his son Seleucus – somewhat ironically, because within two years, he had the boy killed.

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